MPI had by about day 2 learnt from their in-house experts plus consultation with Landcare and Te Papa experts that there was no synonymous favourable listing on the PBI, and were probably regretting their decision to release the plants into PEQ.
Once we got to this point, an application to EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for a rapid assessment of a new to NZ organism was on the cards. As it was reasonably well documented that hybrid ferns are thought to be sterile this seemed possible, especially with NZPPI offering expert guidance through the application process.
BUT the cold hard reality of dealing with EPA came to the surface pretty quickly and we faced a bill of approx. $27k if we wanted to continue.
In brief, we lost. However, following is a letter I wrote which I would like to share. Names omitted.
"Thanks for your assistance, but we have run out of wriggle room.
There is no synonym for Asplenium difforme on the PBI.
For your information, EPA have indicated that there is not a case for rapid assessment and a full application for the species difforme would be required at an estimated cost of $27,000, plus then the hurdle of the required MPI risk assessment.
All this adds up to my strongly held view that we need a position to be created in the plant import space of The Chief Officer of Common Sense.
While this current example is not going to hurt anyone other than a minor hit to our bank balance, the situation is systematic of how NZ Inc is losing its once enviable position of leaders in horticultural innovation.
We no longer have access to the rough "building blocks" to create the next boom effect like the Kiwifruit story.
We are now reduced to being market followers as our PEQ systems are backlogged with overseas crop breeding initiatives, which at best will be 7 to 8 years old before they produce crops which can be sold out of NZ, competing in a market place that has had the innovation for 7 years already. Or more likely the overseas crop freshly out of quarantine does not do well in our very specific climate that we enjoy in Aotearoa NZ.
Who loses here, is not the baby boomers, but the subsequent generations that need to keep NZ economy buoyant.
Horticultural innovation was one of our key strengths, BUT under the HSNO and Biosecurity Act, the tools needed for this innovation, have been locked up and removed from us, that are capable of making something of them.
I believe MPI have the people and the ability to make this argument to their political masters, and to live up to the "support commerce" part of their mandate. I look forward to assisting you in any way I can to achieve this outcome."
So that was that. Plant destroyed, let's move on to the next thing. The sun continues to shine and 2020 is looking good. Keep up the good fight.
Though if anyone knows of Asplenium difforme occurring in NZ, please contact us. We will respect your anonymity if required.
The Lyndale Team